I’m sorry that I can’t stop saying “I’m sorry”


I fear that the words “I’m sorry” have lost their value, their meaning, their substance, their weight. The words of remorse and regret are one of my most popular phrases— I say sorry when I’m late, when I forgot to do my homework, when I’m consoling a friend, when something happened that’s out of my control and I feel irrationally terrible for, and for every other little thing in between.

I fear that I’m the one who devalued and defaced the words that hold so much power. I fear that with each apology, I erase a layer of meaning—substance—that the words hold. By now, there are more eraser shavings than substance.

“I’m sorry” has become a cliche— a worn-out phrase that used to have purpose and meaning, but doesn’t anymore. It’s my individual cliche, though, because I personally wore out the phrase; I whittled it down to eraser shavings with my own pencil.

I thought I valued words more than this.

When I was younger and got in trouble, I had to sit on my stairs until an apology, genuine and sincere, spewed from my unapologetic four-year-old mouth. I wasn’t at all sorry that I climbed to the highest branch of the tree or stayed out after the streetlight turned off, which was my childhood curfew signal. I wasn’t sorry, so I didn’t apologize.

The closest I could get to saying “I’m sorry” was scribbling it on the back of a junk mail envelope with a broken crayon, and as soon as I did scrawl out the unapologetic apology, I returned to what put me on the stairs in the first place.

No regrets, no remorse, no reason—in my youthful brain—to apologize.

I wonder if remorseless childhood-me would be ashamed to see me apologizing so frequently now. Would she shove the envelopes in my face, begging me to look at what I was once forced to do? Would she send me to the stairs, forcing me to stay there until I apologized for apologizing so much?

And I continue to swim in a sea of my own eraser shavings.

‘I’m sorry’ has become a cliche— a worn-out phrase that used to have purpose and meaning, but doesn’t anymore.”

I’ve abandoned the not-so-genuine envelope apologies for authentic and abundant apologies. I can’t tell if I would rather have forcefully insincere or so frequent to the point where the words are meaningless. Either way, the apology has no value.

So why do I keep saying it when I feel that there’s no meaning anymore?

These two words are suffocating. They were when I was four, too, but that’s because I was an annoying kid who didn’t feel like apologizing to her parents. But now, their heedless hands are wrapped around my neck, scaring me into saying sorry when, sometimes, it isn’t necessary.

What if I stopped saying sorry?

I can’t because then I’ll be back to square one: sitting on the stairs until my unapologetic hands haphazardly scribble “sorry” on the back of an envelope.

It’s ruthlessly regressive. I can’t not apologize.  

So what if I continue to say it?

The meaning will continue to dissipate, the eraser shavings will continue to pile up, and I will lose my breath from the hands of “I’m sorry” wrapped around my neck.

I don’t know what to say other than “I’m sorry.”

And I continue to swim in a sea of my own eraser shavings.